Two days ago was Halloween, and it was so sweet and fun. Maggie, at 4, is at a perfect age for that holiday (for holidays in general, really), and we had so much fun anticipating Halloween, getting the kids’ costumes ready, and making Halloween-themed treats and crafts. Trick-or-treating itself was also a blast, and left us with an even stronger love for our neighbors and neighborhood in general. (The perfect fall weather certainly didn’t hurt, either!)
But then yesterday was one of those days where life just felt HEAVY. I don’t know if it was some post-Halloween let down or just general exhaustion from one of those fun but full weekends, but it was a tough day. It certainly wasn’t helped by the fact that Vance had a rough night Sunday, and was up much more than usual. I felt like I just couldn’t quite get into a groove, and — as often happens with those kinds of days — felt guilt layered on top of the exhaustion.
Life is SO GOOD. I should feel grateful.
But here’s the thing (and days like yesterday remind me of this): Life IS good right now. Life is also HARD in many ways. Those two truths can and do exist side by side, neither diminishing the other.
The fact that so much is good and sweet doesn’t minimize the reality that other parts are challenging and overwhelming. The fact that parts are challenging and overwhelming doesn’t make the good and sweet parts any less good and sweet. I can — and should — be able to feel the full weight of both.
I was saying to Kevin yesterday that it’s frustrating that these oh-so precious months and years with our children are also the same months and years that leave us feeling bone tired and pulled in a million directions. That’s just the reality of it.
Vance and Maggie are both at the cutest ages right now, and watching them grow and develop and learn up close is such a joy. But know what else? I haven’t slept a full night in the eight months since Vance has been born. Sometimes the fact that I’m touched all day every day gets really old. Someone seemingly always needs a snack, or a meal, or to nurse. Often on weekends I long for the days when all I had to do was decide what part of my day was going to be for cleaning/running errands and what part was going to be for relaxing/socializing. Sometimes the constant stream of, “Guess what?” from Maggie feels like it tests every ounce of my patience. I feel like a significant portion of my day every day is spent putting things away (or putting things in the dishwasher) but never actually achieving a clean house, which is rather infuriating when I give it too much thought.
I love being needed so much and I resent being needed so much, all in the same breath.
So let me get to the main point of this post, which is this: I don’t want to forget the parts of parenting that are hard, too. In fact, I don’t just not want to forget them: I want to be sure I acknowledge and feel them in the here and now. That’s okay. That doesn’t make me a bad parent. I shouldn’t feel guilty about those feelings. It means I’m showing up for ALL of it.
Someone told me just yesterday, while I was out running errands with Vance, that I should “enjoy this, because it goes by so fast!” That person was definitely correct. Time moves so fast it’s frightening. And I should also work to enjoy this phase with my children, and to be as fully present for it as I can.
I know one day I’ll miss it. I can already feel my future self missing it, if that even makes sense.
But I think that, years down the road, when I see a mama out with a kiddo or two, I’ll try to say something more like this, “Those are SUCH precious ages — and they also require so, so much of YOU right now. There’s so much sweet and there’s so much hard, and both are incredibly valid.”
The hard doesn’t diminish the sweet. The sweet doesn’t diminish the hard. They’re both there, intertwined to the point that one can’t exist without the other, because that’s how this whole thing works.
Part of what’s precious about having babies and small children is their complete and utter dependence on their parents. Part of what leaves you feeling stretched thin and tired all the time as a parent is the fact that your children need you all the time, for just about everything, in those early years.
I know that I’ll encounter plenty of other hard things as my parenting journey continues. I’ve heard parents of older kids comment on how the phase I’m in, with babies and little kids, is physically demanding. Down the road, things get more emotionally demanding. That completely makes sense, and also I know this same dichotomy will be true then as well.
After all, LIFE is about the hard and the joyful, the disappointing and the lighthearted, the loss and the connection, all mixed together. Some days, parenting feels like a daily dose of life on steroids. Things feel extra big and extra true. Time moves by in a blink and also crawls endlessly.
So instead of trying to push those hard things to the back burner without acknowledging them, or leaving them out of rose-colored memories down the road, what do you say we parents grab the whole experience by the horns and try to fully live it — and then bring it with us into the next phase? I’m here for all of it, and even though some days “all of it” leaves me feeling totally drained, I keep going with renewed energy the next day.
I’m here for the sweet. I’m here for the hard. I don’t want to forget any of this.